Our trip to Eskaya Beach Resort & Spa began with the flight from Manila, to Tagbilaran City on the southwest side of the island of Bohol.
At the Domestic terminal in Manila we were given umbrellas before being lead across the tarmac to our waiting Air Asia A320-200.
The umbrellas were to protect us against the tropical sun which blasted the tarmac, and they were collected by ground crew once we reached the stairs to the aircraft.
Once onboard we whiled away the 90 minute flight by playing games on the iPad – no individual entertainment systems on the budget short haul flight!
The umbrellas were out in force upon landing in Tagbilaran, this time well used because of the rain which started closing in as we approached the single runway airport.
We were asked by the captain to assist their turnaround time by making our way to the terminal as quickly as possible and it became apparent why that was.
The airport only had the one runway – a single strip of tarmac with some low slung buildings at one end.
As we descended the stairs under the umbrella we passed the refuelling truck which was already refreshing the plane’s fuel tanks while a steady stream of passengers sploshed across to the terminal.
The terminal had open doors so while we waited by the luggage conveyor belt we could actually see the luggage being taken off the plane, placed in the trolleys under tarpaulin covers and then walked over to the terminal and placed onto the conveyor belt.
While waiting inside I watched the Welcome to Bohol video where models went on ziplines over the Chocolate Hills.
Before too long our luggage made its way across the tarmac and popped out onto the conveyor belt. There something quite calming about seeing your luggage all the way from the airplane so that you know when you can expect it to appear!
Once we collected the luggage, we joined the other passengers leaving the terminal and heading out into the rain.
Waiting at the entrance was a smiling man with a sign with ‘Eskaya’ written on it and he introduced himself and then lead us to a waiting Hyundai Starex van.
It was then a very pleasant trip through the streets of Tagbilaran in the air conditioned comfort of the van. Eskaya resort is actually on the island of Panglao, joined to the much larger island of Bohol, on which the Tagbilaran airport is situated.
Eskaya Beach Resort & Spa
It only takes 30 minutes to get to Eskaya Beach Resort & Spa on Panglao from the airport and we farewell the driver as he drops us off at the reception building.
The building features natural wood and rattan matting and helps us adjust our rhythm from the go-go-go of the Manila traffic and flight, to the more leisurely vibe of a holiday in a nice resort.
As we checked in I noticed a little sign saying that the resort belonged to the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. I noticed a little coffee table book on the table beside the reception desk and it identified all 520 of their hotels.
I’d just started to flick through them when the receptionist brightly informed me that our room was ready and the bell boy would take us and our luggage to our room.
We followed him to the waiting golf cart and sped along the paved lane to our thatched roof villa no.6. We followed him up the path to villa, climbed the stairs and went in.
The room was dominated by the bed. A conical mosquito net disappeared into the lofty heights of the ceiling – pulled back upon entry to show the bed in all its glory.
A welcome note and flowers on the bed runner and pillows were lovely touches, and the high ceilings and natural materials made the room feel spacious and airy.
A wooden fan promised to cool us down and a TV and mini-bar faced the bed. We were provided with free bottles of water.
Lastly a desk and chair tucked into the corner provided a nod to the ability to get some work done, while a pair of arm chairs flanked the bed, providing for more inside relaxation.
But our room at the Eskaya was not about shutting yourself inside – oh no!
Outside the main room was our own private pool.
That’s right, each of the rooms had their own private pool. Not Olympic sized you understand, but still a sizeable body of water, well supported by an extensive deck with sun loungers and sun umbrella. And looking around we couldn’t really see anyone, so the design of the place meant that we had really good privacy too.
If the sun had been out we would have been thankful of the shade of the trees nearby, but instead we scooped their leaves out before we went for a swim.
The water wasn’t warm but a good contrast with the high temperatures and steamy humidity which we’d been confronted with each time we’d left the comfort of air conditioning.
But the biggest wow factor was the bathroom. We headed through the door past the bed into an outdoor bathroom. That’s right: the bathroom was exposed to the skies, a jacuzzi tub front and centre.
Surrounded by a bamboo wall about 6 foot high for privacy, the eaves of the main chalet provided cover from the elements for the toilet, a shower and the his and hers sinks backed by a huge well lit mirror.
The toiletries were Aqua Universalis (part of the Maison range by Francis Kurkdjian) and nestled behind them were some Aloe Vera by Crabtree and Evelyn. My concerns regarding the possibilities of mosquitoes were put to rest by the inclusion of some family friendly mosquito repellent.
The weather being what it was we decided to head to the restaurant to have lunch.
The place wasn’t quite deserted, but we certainly had our choice of seating location. We decided to forgo the Chef’s special and instead have the set menu of prawn soup, stuffed squid and a fruit smoothie, while looking out over the pools to the sea.
The striations of the two different blues in the pool, the two shades of cyan in the sea before the reef plus the deep blue of the open ocean reflected the different aquatic environments the Eskaya enjoyed.
Burping gently after dinner, we wandered back to our chalet via the beach, keeping under the umbrella to hide form the rain. We’d arrived just as the seasons switched from the dry season (November to May), to the wet (June to October) so the rain was not unexpected.
We were hopeful that the rain would clear the next day so we could see the resort in all its splendour, but the general feel was similar to the meal we had in Rovinj overlooking the harbour. The staff made sure we didn’t want for anything, watching from a respectable distance ready to pounce should we even look like we’d like another round of drinks or anything else.
What better way to relax after a day of travel than by having an outdoor bubble bath? We poured out the bubble bath (more restrained than that time in Dubai) and ran the bath and then turned on the jets.
There’s something magical about the ability of a strong jet of hot water to really ease away the aches and weariness of travel. Very relaxing and very private.
Later that evening we headed back for more deliciousness. This time the room was serenaded by a quartet of guitar strumming musicians who worked the room.
There were a few more guests dotted around the restaurant, but even though the resort was supposed to be full, we almost didn’t notice any other guests at all.
Again the staff were super attentive, and figuring we weren’t likely to have acclimatised to the heat as much as some of the other guests, they kindly sat us near one of the air conditioning units.
For dinner Ange and I both had the Chef’s special – the Orange Chicken Teriyaki, washed down with another fruit smoothie. This time we shared a chocolate brownie, so big it didn’t fit into the glass it was served in, oozing with sauce and accompanied by two edible wafer straws.
That night I ventured out to avail myself of the facilities – a little trepidatious with worries about the insect situation. I needn’t have worried – the staff had visited while we were at dinner and set up mosquito coils outside and fashioned a tee-pee out of the mosquito nets above the bed, and the result was that I did what I needed to do unmolested.
That was a huge thing for me as I am usually victim #1 when it comes to mozzies – so much so that Ange loves travelling with me because she knows if I’m nearby she will be left unscathed as the evil mosquitoes will do anything to get a taste of my blood.
After a blissful night’s sleep, we headed down for breakfast. The sun was out in force and it was great to see the resort in all its glory – no more grey skies and rain.
Again we were seated beside the air con which we appreciated because even though it was still quite early in the morning, there was serious malice in the sun.
There was an impressive array of food to select from, with fresh locally caught fish featuring prominently.
There were enough Western options to keep us happy, with the best part being the omelette station. Hard to go past!
After having an omelette and bacon, followed by pancakes and fresh fruit, we headed back to our villa the long way around.
The private beach the previous night had been set up for a banquet with dining table and about a dozen chairs lit by tiki torches – a gorgeous setting by night and even better by daylight.
There were sun loungers all in a row, shaded by umbrellas and with members of staff ready to bring whatever drinks or snacks could be desired.
We watched a family heading down the path past the boat house onto the jetty and then onto the glass bottomed boat, life jackets fastened and snorkels in hand ready for a fish finding dive off the coral reef.
Bobbing in the water were some jet-skis and a speed boat with an inflatable banana in tow. Paddle boards and kayaks sat on the sand outside the boathouse and staff members busied themselves getting the various aquatic activity equipment ready.
We would have loved to take advantage of some of those but unfortunately only had just enough time to avail ourselves of the infinity pool.
The pool was awesome – it had a seated area which was much shallower than the rest – a semi circle which allowed you to sit and chat or keep an eye on small children.
The remainder of the pool was a little deeper with nothing breaking the horizon except the change in shades of blue, so it seemed that you could swim all the way out to the reef.
Tucked into the corner of the pool was a bar with the bar-stools under water allowing you to have a drink without leaving the cool comfort of the water.
The eaves of the bar roof provided welcome shade from the sun meaning you could spend all day in the pool and not get sunburned. The pool was ringed with sun loungers and umbrellas meaning anyone not wanting to get wet could also enjoy the great views.
Altogether too soon it was time to leave. We packed our bags, headed back to the reception hut and checked out.
We waited in the air conditioned hut for the driver to come with the van and then we boarded and said a fond farewell to Eskaya Beach Resort & Spa.
Pros and Cons
Would I Return?
Hell yes. I’m just trying to figure out a way for us to get back there – this time for longer!
Everything, from the welcome at the airport, to the attentive service at the restaurant is designed to make your stay as enjoyable as possible.
We got lucky with the weather – if we could change one thing I probably would have gone a little earlier in the year to avoid the rainy season, but the beautiful bright blue skies on the day we left certainly showed what a stay at Eskaya can look like.
If all the Small Luxury Hotels are like this, I hope to visit the other 519 soon!